China introduces its own Snooper’s Charter

Last November marked a sad day for UK citizens, as the Data Investigatory Powers Bill was announced by Home Secretary Theresa May. Nicknamed the Snoopers’ Charter, the new bill set out to require Internet service providers and mobile communication companies to maintain records of each user’s activity, and store them for a period of 12 months.

About a month ago, the Chinese government announced a similar bill, apparently put in place to prevent terror attacks. The new anti-terror law will give the Chinese government the power to decrypt electronic messages stored on ISP and other technology firms’ servers. Coupled with the already strict Internet regulation in China, this bill has received its fair share of backlash.

Computer with a lock and key

“Business as usual”

Li Shouwei, deputy head of the parliament’s criminal law division, attempted to defend the bill by pointing towards Western nations that already implement similar practices. During a conversation with Guardian reporters, Li said that “China is doing simply what other nations already do in asking technology firms to help fight terror,” specifically mentioning UK’s new Investigatory Powers bill that grants nearly identical powers to the UK government.

During that same interview, Li added that ISPs and mobile service providers won’t have to worry with regards to losing intellectual property rights, or having back doors installed. According to the new legislation, telecommunication companies are to operate as normal.

Despite the claim of “business as usual,” the law is very vague in its reach. So far, the government’s intent is not clear when it comes to the processes surrounding the breaking of encryption. The bill in its current state has sparked mass confusion amongst China’s telecom giants and ISPs.

Besides compromising the privacy and security of millions of law-abiding citizens in order to be better prepared for the few that pose a threat, the new bill also includes a provision that further censors Chinese Internet. As part of the legislation, Chinese media is now prohibited from reporting on details of terror activities, with the reasoning of “it might lead to imitation.” In the same vain, Chinese media and social media cannot show scenes that are “cruel and inhumane,” whatever that even means.

Staying protected

Regardless of your opinion on the new legislation, there is no arguing that Chinese citizens are being subjected to further censorship of their already severely limited internet. If you happen to be one of those citizens, there are some precautions you can take to ensure that your data remains secure and your Internet access remains unrestricted.

If you don’t already, it’s a good idea to invest in a VPN – ideally seeking a provider that doesn’t keep logs. There are many reputable options out there, all of which offer comparable packages. If you’re unsure of what VPN will best suit your needs, you can check out the Best VPN for China article, or do some independent research.

When your VPN is up and running, you can enjoy the extra layer of security and the peace of mind that your website browsing history isn’t being logged. Additionally, many VPN service provides offer a mobile companion, which allows secure, on-the go, browsing.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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